Two towering old oak trees, an elm, poplar and two ginkgos fell to the noisy metal teeth of chain saws yesterday in Kalorama, despite the imprompts, desperate intervention by a handful of outraged residents in the wealthy neighborhood.
The tree cutting along Wyoming Avenue, ignited the fire of five people, both black and white. They followed the protest pattern set for them by students and others. They called the press, called the police then two of them spread themselves around a stately oak when workmen tried to cut it down.
It was the classic confrontation. Developer architect William Marlowe, owner of the vacant lot, was clearing it so he can build three expensive homes.
The residents, who live next door, were affronted by the tree destruction and feared that falling trees would damage the building containing their condominium apartments.
"They are so beautiful, why should some developer just come in and chop them down," said Catherine Bonde, 34 who along with neighbor Edward Glassman 48, used their bodies to protect to oak.
The confrontation was alien to the secluded community where foreign embassies line the quiet streets, where several high ranking government officials live, where women put on gold jewelry to walk their pedigreed dogs and where young black women push the wheelchairs of rich, elderly, invalid, white women along the sidewards on warm afternoons.
Seven D.C. police officers-including a lieutenant-refereed and declared Marlowe the winner. He had the permits and the right to cut down the trees, they said.
Bonde, Glassman and their three neighbors, unschooled in protest politics, gave up. "What's the use of getting a criminal record?" Bonde said.
"As soon as I go to jail they'll take the trees down anyway."
They retreated. And the trees came down.